In learning networks for sustainable development, partnerships of actors aim at sustainable, innovative solutions through knowledge sharing or collaborative knowledge development. Joint learning in these networks takes place through a variety of communicative interactions with learning outcomes at the individual level as well as the group level. According to learning technologists there is great potential in the application of social 'Web 2.0' software to support the interactions in learning networks, resulting in more effective 'learning networks 2.0'. This article presents a first exploration of the potential of social network software to support learning networks for sustainable development. A design-based approach to this novel area of study was followed, with the aim to identify opportunities, constraints and challenges for further research and development. The approach comprised of the development of a functional and technical design of a social network platform in constant interaction with prospective users and testing of a prototype in two small-scale, but real-life pilots. The results indicate that supporting learning for sustainable development with social network software is technically feasible and can be functionally effective. However, it appears that designers of social software support for such learning networks are also faced with fundamental tensions, which concern the degree of mixing private and professional life, learning networks and social networks, face-to-face and virtual interactions, top down and bottom up control, hierarchical and emergent structure. To deal with these tensions, we recommend to design dedicated, tailor-made social software-based platforms for specific learning networks, with a varying and flexible degree of social network features, depending on the needs and preferences of the users and how these evolve in time.
- Learning networks
- Social network platform
- Sustainable regional development
- Web 2.0